David Allen. Yes, the David Allen, of Getting Things Done, the David Allen Company, and what I referred to in an Atlantic article as "The David Allen Way." Since reading his book, attending one of his seminars, and writing about his approach to life seven years ago, I have stayed in touch with him and have felt fortunate to become a friend. I've seen him perform in venues large and small -- including one two years ago, where he said he'd just gotten interested in a new system called Twitter. He has something like 1.3 million followers there now (@gtdguy). I expect that he'll tell us whatever is on his mind.
Julio Friedmann. Yes, the Julio Friedmann (I'll retire the "Yes, the.." joke at this point). I wrote about him several months ago in an Atlantic cover story about "clean coal" as a source of environmental hope in a dirty world. It included a picture of him at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, where he is Carbon Management Program Leader.We met in Beijing several years ago when he started telling me about projects like those I described in the article, to coordinate clean-up efforts between Chinese and American groups. He has been a university research scientist, and a researcher for Exxon and ExxonMobil. I expect that he will tell us how to think about energy and climate issues, and about the timetable and practicality of steps America and other countries can take.
Kentaro Toyama, a Japanese- born, American-raised and educated computer scientist whom I first met several years ago in Bangalore, at the Microsoft research lab he had helped set up there. (I was in India to visit my son; I learned of Kentaro and his work through our mutual friend, the Atlantic's Scott Stossel.) The picture is from a 2008 NY Times story about him and his projects in India. At the time he was mainly working on technology projects meant to improve the prospects of the world's rural poor. Despite that experience, or because of it, he became skeptical of whether technology could really do much to end poverty (as he has written here). He has left Microsoft and is now at UC Berkeley writing a book on what the solutions are, if they're not technology. I expect that technology-and-life's-problems will be his theme.
Michele Travierso, originally from Milan and now based in Shanghai, became a friend when my wife and I were living in Shanghai in 2006 and 2007. He juggles a variety of identities and passions. He has worked as a freelancer for the Economist, the NYT, Wired.com, and others, plus some Italian publications. He is an entrepreneur and technology project manager. And -- the way we originally got to know each other -- he is an aviation buff and glider pilot. As he puts it about these and other interests: "I have lifelong passion for skiing and flying (or more broadly put: mountains and everything that flies). I dabble with photography. I'm always torn between the craft of journalism and the art of entrepreneurship." He is based for the moment in Hong Kong on an internship for Time magazine, where "I find myself staring at the great view of the old Kai Tak runway 31 in the in the Victoria Harbour, that seems to be floating like a pontoon from the Kowloon peninsula, more than I should."
Here is the ninth week's team of guest bloggers: Bonabeau, Cham, Hall, and Larson.
Eric Bonabeau, originally from France and now of Santa Fe, NM, a mathematician and physicist who is the founder and chairman of the Icosystem company. If I tried to get too specific about what Icosystem does, I would no doubt trip over a detail. For now I'll leave it at saying that Eric's recent professional life has involved various aspects of artificial intelligence and predictive analysis. At an "isn't that cute!!" level, this includes his renowned "Ominous Panda" image-generating system (right) plus an addictive baby-naming system, Nymbler. He also is responsible for the Infomous idea-visualizing device you see on the Atlantic's home page. We met years ago, when he was working on "Swarm Intelligence" concepts at the Santa Fe institute and I introduced him to the late Michael Crichton, who had cited his writings in Prey. I expect we'll hear from him about how we can (begin to) make sense of an overly info-packed world.
James Cham, of Silicon Valley, was introduced here several weeks ago but has had to postpone his actual blogging until now. He is a principal with Trinity Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca. He previously was part of Bessemer Venture Partners and is generally in the middle of the culture of high-tech startups that we all hope will improve our lives. That's how he's known to the world. He's additionally known to me for having taken time years ago to set up an early pre-Atlantic version of this site. I expect he will be describing the nature of start-up culture now, whether we're in another tech bubble, and related topics.
Glenna Hall, originally from New Jersey, now lives in the the (incredibly beautiful) San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle. (Hey, nothing against Santa Fe or Silicon Valley.) Like many people who have appeared here in previous weeks, she has had a lot of different roles over the years. She has been a political scientist, a researcher at an organization funded by the CIA, an editor, a private-practice lawyer, and for a dozen years a judge. She has retired from the bench but is still a mediator -- and an active pilot and a software buff. I came to know of her though a software-fanatics forum on, gasp, Compuserve, back at technology's dawn. Her topics could range from the state of the courts to the state of aviation, with other subjects in between. And:
Christina Larson. Last week, there was no China person in the rotation! Thus I am all the more pleased to introduce Christina Larson, who was traveled extensively in China and Southeast Asia and written often about environmental issues there, including in this recent post here on the Atlantic's site. She is originally from Atlanta, is now based mainly in Washington, and has experience with a number of great journalistic and policy institutions, including the New America Foundation and the fabled Washington Monthly magazine. Her reporting from Asia has mainly been bottom-up, covering the local organizers, administrators, researchers, and plain citizens who have tried to address Asia's environmental emergencies. I expect that we will hear some of these personal views of China and its environs.
Here is the eighth week's team: Donham, Garau, Hayduk, Raz, and Roggeveen.
- From Nova Scotia, Canada, we are joined by Parker Donham. I met him eons ago on the college newspaper, until he dropped out of school in 1968 to join the Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign. His account of his journeys since then: "That same year, he bought an exotic vacation property: a farm on Nova Scotia's Bras d'Or Lake [where he now lives]. In the early 2000s, he led communications for a long stalled cleanup of industrial waste left behind by a defunct coke ovens plant, putting him at odds with many local environmental activists, and spurring an interest in how we face risk. Other interests range from make-and-break engines to American Chestnut trees and organ and tissue donation. He is the grandfather of identical twins with Down Syndrome, and this has led him to appreciate men and women with developmental disabilities. He runs an independent film series and blogs at Contrarian.ca." I expect he will write on political and environmental topics.
- From Rome, Italy, a few hundred yards from the walls of the Vatican, we have Piero Garau, an architect, urban-planning specialist, artist, musician, and former UN official who has worked around the globe. He was posted for more than a decade in Kenya for the UN's "Habitat" organization, and has also served in Geneva and in New York during the 9/11 attacks, before returning to a university role in his native Italy. He was a high-school exchange student in upstate New York and became an America-phile and NY Yankees fan. I have known him about as long as I have Parker Donham; I expect we'll hear from him about European news and culture, plus world politics and culture from the perspective of a friendly critic of American power and instincts.
- From Marina del Rey, California, we greet Shelley Hayduk, co-founder of TheBrain Technologies. As I have explained a few million times, I am
- From Washington DC, we have Guy Raz, familiar to NPR listeners as a correspondent from Berlin, London, and the Pentagon and more recently as host of Weekend All Things Considered. He joined NPR out of college as an intern for the late Daniel Schorr and by age 25 was a foreign bureau chief. He also spent two years as a Jerusalem correspondent for CNN, has put in his academic time as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and with a master's degree from Cambridge, and is a music and fiction fan. I expect he will chronicle the weekly cycle of putting together a news-and-culture show. I know him from appearing often on the show for news discussions.
- Finally, from Sydney, Australia, we welcome Sam Roggeveen, who is editor of The Interpreter, an excellent international policy blog/zine published by the Lowy Institute for International Policy. His self-intro: "Sam was working as an intelligence analyst in Australia's sleepy capital, Canberra, when in 2001 he stumbled on his first blog - Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish... In 2007, the Lowy Institute made the far-sighted decision to not publish an in-house print magazine (too expensive) or academic journal (nobody reads them). Instead, the Institute became one of the first foreign policy think tanks to run an edited blog, which Sam helped to develop and has edited ever since. Sam's professional expertise is in international security, and his academic background is in conservative political philosophy. He hopes to draw on both during this guest blogging slot." I know Sam through my involvement with the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
Here is the background on the seventh week's team: Blount, Casey, Gollapalli, Peng, and Saigal.
Keith Blount, who four years ago, as a self-taught programmer, unveiled the (Mac only) Scrivener writing program, and in recent months has put out an even better followup 2.0 version, plus a beta release for Windows. Over the years I have lionized and, when lucky, befriended the creators of "interesting" software, starting with Bill Gross (of Lotus Magellan) and Mitch Kapor (of Lotus Agenda) and continuing through many others, including Tom Davis of Zoot. Several weeks ago, Mark Bernstein, creator of Tinderbox, appeared as a guest here. I have never met Keith Blount, who lives in Cornwall in far western England; but his program is by far the best tool and environment for writing -- as opposed to "document prep" -- the computing world has yet produced. And it costs all of $45. If you think I'm nutty, check out the book writers' testimonial page for the program. More on Blount here, and an early review of Scrivener here. I expect he will talk about what it is like to run a small software house, the endlessly fascinating relationship between software and thinking, etc.
Liam Casey was the central figure of my Atlantic cover story "China Makes, the World Takes" back in 2007. He grew up on a farm in Ireland, worked for a while in the US, and more than a decade ago moved to southern China and put himself in the middle of China's industrial and "outsourcing" dealings with the rest of the world. Since then he has won an "Entrepreneur of the Year" award from Ernst & Young and has spoken at universities and conferences in many countries. You can see him in a recent Bloomsberg interview here. I imagine he'll tell us what it is like to be helping design, produce, and ship the products we'll all be buying six months from now.
Sriram Gollapalli is a young computer scientist, trained at Carnegie Mellon (where he is on the alumni advisory board), who has worked for the federal government, large corporations, and for the last few years in a startup technology firm. He is American -- I first met him because he was a high school friend of one of my sons, and they now work together -- but he still has family ties and frequent contact with India, including being married in Hyderabad last summer. I expect he will discuss the culture, challenges, and opportunities of tech startups these days; plus US-Indian interactions; and some of his sporting interests, which range from scuba to cricket.
Grace Peng, who lives in Southern California, is a scientist who has written often and engagingly about the intersection of science, public policy, and personal life. Her academic training is in in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, with a PhD in chemical physics; and her on the job expertise is, as she put it to me, in "satellite meteorology, numerical weather prediction, and geoinformatics." Over the years she has often written about scientific/policy topics I wanted to understand better. She and her husband, also a scientist, both work in what she asked me to describe as as "a Los Angeles area non-profit Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) -- and work a second shift raising a highly spirited 10 year old daughter." She will be writing about STEM [science / technology / engineering / math] education and workforce issues, with a focus on the plight of women and mothers, and why she loves math and science. Her own droll site, Bad Mom, Good Mom, is here.
I know Sanjay Saigal through the small-airplane piloting world. We were both participants a decade ago in sr20.org, an early site for enthusiasts of the then-brand-new Cirrus SR20 airplane -- which as it happens was designed by Alan Klapmeier, a previous guest blogger here. His self-introduction: "Sanjay Saigal was born in Patna, India, educated in Delhi and Houston, Texas, and spent much of his career in Silicon Valley. In addition to consulting with companies to improve operating efficiency (his PhD is in Applied Mathematics), Sanjay leads a start-up delivering accelerated management training to working professionals. This effort is based in Delhi, where he loves to drive. While at his first start-up in Reno, Nevada, Sanjay fulfilled a childhood dream by learning to fly." He has a wide range of interests, from tech to politics to aviation to language, and we could well hear about them all.
Here is the background on the sixth week's team: Brown, Cham, D. Fallows, Minter, and Pierce:
Don Brown, a career (now retired) air traffic controller and safety expert, based in Atlanta, who is known for his writings in aviation sites and now his own Get the Flick blog. He probably will explain what "get the flick" means in the aviation world. I've never met him but have found him very enlightening in explaining over the years why air travel works, and doesn't, from a controller's point of view.
James Cham is a principal with Trinity Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca. He previously was part of Bessemer Venture Partners and is generally in the middle of the culture of high-tech startups that we all hope will improve our lives. That's how he's known to the world. He's additionally known to me for having taken time years ago to set up an early pre-Atlantic version of this site. I expect he will be describing the nature of start-up culture now, whether we're in another tech bubble, and related topics.
Adam Minter, a writer originally from Minnesota and in recent years based in Shanghai, is familiar to Atlantic readers for articles like this and dispatches like this, plus his regular Shanghai Scrap site. I believe he has a scrap-related plan in mind for this week's dispatches. (Indeed I see that he has admirably beat me to the bunch.)
Lucia Pierce, originally from Ohio and now also based in Shanghai, has worked for years on the connection between American and Chinese educational systems. For years she directed the influential Chinese-language program at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, and she has also been head of the education programs at the Freer and Sackler museums of the Smithsonian system. She has run an international high school in Shanghai and now she counsels Chinese families whose children are aiming for high-end American universities. College admission practices, Western-vs-Chinese approaches to mothering, "kids today" -- she's on top of all of these topics.
Plus as an out-of-alphabetic-order bonus guest blogger: Deborah Fallows, who has a doctorate in linguistics and speaks many languages, will be writing about language issues as they affect understanding and misunderstanding between China and the Western world. She is the author of Dreaming in Chinese; and, as I probably should mention, the view out her window, whether in Beijing or Washington DC, is usually the same as the view from mine.
Here is background on the fifth week's team: Dougherty and Klapmeier, Fingleton, Fisher, and Jenne:
Kate Dougherty and Alan Klapmeier. I have mentioned that an earlier guest blogger, Bruce Holmes of NASA, was one of the heroes of my book Free Flight. Alan Klapmeier, plus his brother Dale and their many associates including Kate Dougherty at the Cirrus Design corporation of Duluth, were also triumphant central figures. Over the past decade, Cirrus has become the world's leading innovative producer of small propeller airplanes. At right is a picture of an early Cirrus (like the one I bought 11 years ago) under the company's innovative parachute for the whole airplane. As explained by Lane Wallace here and by me here, Alan has left Cirrus and started a new small-airplane company. Kate Dougherty, who was with Cirrus from its early days (and is Alan's sister-in-law), has joined him there. I imagine they will write about the nature of startups, about new possibilities in travel, about the ancestral struggle between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and other topics.
Eamonn Fingleton has written extensively about Japanese finance, manufacturing, economics, and politics from Tokyo, where he has lived and worked since the 1980s. I met him there in the "Japan boom" days when he was an early voice warning of an impending crash. Since then he has consistently argued that the extent of Japan's "collapse" has been greatly overstated, creating as it has a surprisingly rich and technologically advanced society with many of the world's leading export corporations. I imagine he'll be writing about Western/Asian interactions of various sorts.
Julian Fisher, who lives in Boston, is a neurologist and serial entrepreneur, and also, as he puts it, "a devoted Yalie who just happens to be on the Harvard Medical faculty." Many people who have made guest appearances here operate on frontiers -- in the realm connecting software and thought, innovation and regulation, America and Asia, etc. Much of Julian's work has involved the connection between medical science and information technology, and I imagine we'll hear more about that.
Jeremiah Jenne, has been based for several years in Beijing, where he teaches, writes, and continues his doctoral work in Chinese history. He is best known in China circles for his wonderful site Jottings from the Granite Studio. Its motto, "a Qing historian reads the newspaper," accurately suggests the frontier on which he operates: the interaction between Chinese (and Western) history and current events.
Here is the background on the fourth week's team: Bernstein, Goldstick, Ma, and Sedgwick.
Mark Bernstein is the chief scientist of Eastgate, a software company in Watertown, Mass., and author of a book called The Tinderbox Way. Over the years, I have been a serial romantic about "interesting" software -- programs that seem matched to the way people think, or rather the way I think. Over the years the objects of my fascination have included Lotus Agenda, which I wrote about in the Atlantic nearly 20 years ago, just before Lotus Development cruelly removed its life support. (Background on Agenda, and my 1992 article, here. Possibility of an Agenda reprise here.) Or Zoot, a Windows-program I've written about often, starting here. Or Chandler, by the intellectual godfather of Agenda, Mitch Kapor.
I try not to draw conclusions from the fact that the programs I love best have not been huge market successes. (Zoot survives, with an all-out new version on the way.) Happily three of the programs I now find most open-endedly intriguing seem to have escaped my curse and are going strong. They are: Scrivener, Personal Brain, and Tinderbox. Even more happily, creators of all three of those programs have agreed to serve guest stints here. First up is Mark Bernstein, creator of Tinderbox. For more on his background, check his bio here and his personal blog here. If you have any interest in the Zen of software, you won't regret reading his book, which is half about his own program and half about the connection between thinking tools, whether electronic or paper-and-pencil, and actual thought.
Edward Goldstick, also of the Boston area, is a veteran of America's high-tech, software, defense, and energy-technology worlds. We have corresponded frequently over the years, often about technology and its implications, which I imagine he will discuss here. When I asked him how he should be introduced, he suggested this:
>>I'm a 55 year old Jewish-American from Massachusetts with a BS in Physics at an engineering school that included internships within the "godforsaken" DC and at a national laboratory in IL, an attempt at both graduate study and government service at a well-known defense-oriented nuclear lab in CA... a four-year experience developing transportation simulation software at a large international engineering company... a nearly two decade sojourn in France discovering a foreign language, a life partner, and a surprising capacity to participate in the conception of sophisticated mission-critical systems while making money hawking US-made software... and a decade of semi-retirement back in the States while accompanying our two sons through their teens and my parents into their later years... <<
Damien Ma is familiar to Atlantic readers from his role as correspondent and frequent contributor here. In his day-job he is an analyst with the Eurasia Group; in that role he travels frequently to China and other parts of Asia. He speaks Chinese and has degrees in Asian studies (and journalism) from institutions in both the U.S. and China. I am always interested in what he has to say about developments inside China and their implications for the world, which among other topics he may discuss this week.
Kate Sedgwick grew up in Georgia and has been based in recent years in Washington DC. In her professional life she has worked as a public health expert, with a master's degree from Harvard. But now she is living in Bratislava, representing America along with her husband, Tod, a long-time publisher and entrepreneur who is the new U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic. The Sedgwicks have been family friends of my family's for years; Kate will be presenting scenes from the diplomatic and current-Central-European life. Atlantic connection note: Sedgwick bylines have a long history in this magazine. Tod Sedgwick's grandfather, Ellery, owned and edited the Atlantic for three decades starting in 1908. On his watch, the circulation increased nearly tenfold, from 15,000 to the 130,000s. An example to us all.
Here is the background on the third week's team: Bennett, Chou, Comstock, and Glucroft.
Lizzy Bennett, who is the online marketing manager for the Timbuk2 bag company in San Francisco. Timbuk2 is interesting not just for its design and products but also for its manufacturing strategy: it does its largely made-to-order production right in San Francisco (video here), rather than on the other side of the Pacific. Lizzy is in the middle of various worlds -- style-conscious start-ups, social media and blog-based marketing, young San Francisco -- I am interested in but obviously not part of. She is from California and is a former college athlete (Stanford tennis team) and a mountain climber, as part of the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks challenge.
Ella Chou is now a second-year graduate student in East Asian studies at Harvard. She was born in Hangzhou, which anyone who has visited China has heard referred to as the "most beautiful" of the country's cities (a cliche that is preferable to being called one of the "three furnaces" of China -- as Wuhan, Nanking, and Chongqing are because of their summer weather) and came to Beijing at age 17 for studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. She has worked with a variety of news, environmental, and civil-society organizations -- which is how I first met her in Beijing -- and her ambition is to be involved in efforts combining law and social change. She too is part of various circles I am fascinated by but am not part of -- notably the very educated Chinese 20-somethings who are at ease in the wider world and have high hopes for their country.
Tony Comstock is a documentary filmmaker, whose company, Comstock Films, specializes in erotic documentaries. I have corresponded with him over the years (and quoted him here and elsewhere) about the evolving conceptions of the "decent" and "profane" in an internet-connected age, when both state agencies and private corporations exercise the ability to censor -- and the corporate censorship is usually the less transparent of the two. He was raised on the West Coast but is now based in New York. History buffs will have guessed that his adopted professional name is an homage to Anthony Comstock, famed late-19th century leader of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.
Brian Glucroft, who has been based in in Shanghai for several years, was trained as a musician (clarinet performance, Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore) but has worked mainly as a user-experience specialist for software firms, notably including Microsoft China. He has traveled extensively through China and -- as I hope will be part of his contributions here -- has taken remarkable photos from the parts of the country left off standard tour routes. I had corresponded with him -- about China, software, and beer -- over an extended period but first met him last year during a long day together at the Shanghai World Expo.
Here is background on the second week's team: Eberlein, Holmes, Spinney, and Sprung.
Xujun Eberlein, who grew up in Chongqing, in central China, where she was a child during the Cultural Revolution, and came to Boston to earn a PhD at MIT more than 20 years ago. She has worked in a high-tech startup and published an acclaimed collection of short stories, Apologies Forthcoming. She writes about Chinese and American literature and culture at her site Inside-Out China; more background on her here.
Bruce Holmes, who for many years was an "entrepreneurial bureaucrat" inside NASA. Bruce was one of the heroes of my book Free Flight, a decade ago, and of this story in the Atlantic more recently. He paid his way through college flying crop dusters and other planes in Kansas, and is still involved in promoting some of the most innovative steps in aviation. More about him and his new company, NextGen AeroServices, here.
Chuck Spinney, who was on the cover of Time magazine in the Reagan era for his attempts to bring sanity to the defense budget, and who was a central figure in my book National Defense in 1981, along with colleagues like John Boyd and Pierre Sprey. Chuck has retired from the Pentagon and now spends much of his time on a small sailboat in the Mediterranean with his wife Alison and Zoey, their small dog. I have written about Chuck and his views here, here, here, and in a very high-traffic post here.
Andrew Sprung, who writes about politics, culture, language, and democracy at his site Xpostfactoid, and in his day job is a media consultant. I became aware of him through his frequent interesting examinations of a favorite topic of my own: the language, style, and unstated messages in the rhetoric of national leaders. Sprung says that may come from his academic background, including a Ph.D. in medieval English literature: "I wrote a dissertation on the remarkably humane and subtle medieval English anchorite Julian of Norwich, a mystic nun whose knack of squaring circles and framing paradoxes reminds me a little of our current President."
As mentioned earlier, starting tomorrow morning we're kicking off what should be a very interesting stretch of guest voices in this space, while I disappear to finish a book (and before that, ahem, an article -- check the April issue). For the coming week, I'm delighted to introduce good friends whom I always enjoy hearing from; I think you will too. This first week belongs to:
Phil Baker, a product designer and technology writer from San Diego. He has helped conceive some of the products you use and have around the house; his insights on tech and business are, for me, always provocative. Many of the most interesting things I learned about Chinese manufacturing systems I learned because of him. His regular blog is here.
Jorge Guajardo, with guest appearances by his wife Paola. They are Mexico's first family in China, where he currently serves as the Mexican ambassador. Both went to college in the US -- he to Georgetown, she to Yale -- and they have been involved in politics and culture in Mexico, the US, and China. Jorge and I first met because of a shared interest in small-plane flying. We formed a North American solidarity bloc in Beijing during the great Swine Flu panic there, when anyone from our part of the world (but especially Mexico) was viewed with public-health department suspicion.
John Tierney is a political scientist and former college professor who now is a beloved teacher in a private high school in Boston, an accomplished amateur actor, and a long time close friend. For several years he has carried out high-end book and movie criticism, in his own blog, plus political views I expect he will share.
Lane Wallace is known to Atlantic readers for her many articles and Dispatches here. I first met her a decade ago in the amateur-piloting world, where she was already famous for her columns in Flying. She has written with great insight about bravery and courage of many sorts; her regular site, on that topic and others, is here.
Welcome to them all. It is a pleasure to turn the stage over to them. And, if you press the now misleadingly named "Email Fallows" button above, your messages should instead go to each week's authors, for them to handle as they see fit.
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